Vista Chino : Interview with Brant Bjork

Brant Bjork (2) caught up with Brant Bjork (and his wife Zaina) just before Vista Chino played Nottingham Rescue Rooms on their current European tour. We inevitably discussed the law suit that the band has just been through, but also the band’s plans for the coming months and we find out who Brant drew pictures of on his old school notebooks…

Thanks for talking to and well done with the album, I love it. After all that’s been going on recently, does it feel good to have some fresh music to do the talking?

Brant: Yeah, well the courts and all of the legal bullshit was a result of us being motivated to make new music. So we persevered and we made that new music that we wanted to make and it feels great.

Well, we won’t go into the court case as I think it’s been done to death now, but the result of the court case is of course that you had to change your name, which you have done (to Vista Chino). Is it hard to rebrand yourself like that?

B: It is super hard. Yeah very difficult, like everything on every level that we do.

Did you have reservations about going through with it? Did you think Let’s not bother?

B: Well we never put the band of Kyuss back together from a place of fear, we put it back together from a place of love. That was the fire that fuelled us to do the entire experience. There was never a question of pulling it off or err…can we do this? At certain points it became a mission and it became principled and it became a war where we have to fight for our rights so someone can’t tell us what we can and can’t do. We’re musicians and we’re here to play the music we want (to play) and nobody can stop that. So that’s what we do.

Do you think there are people out there that haven’t got the message yet?  Are there people who would be at a Kyuss Lives! show out there but don’t recognise the Vista Chino name yet?

B: Well of course, there’s a lot of people that don’t know what Vista Chino is yet. There’s a lot of people who know what Vista Chino is but are reserved and don’t know if they want to endorse it, there’s a lot of people that are confused.

There were a lot of people who were confused when Kyuss first came out; it’s been twenty years and it took nearly all that time for people to fully embrace Kyuss. So all these Kyuss fans who have this intimate relationship with that music and that brand…they weren’t there at the beginning, trust me because I was and I know. So you know, it takes time when you are doing something credible and worth it. It doesn’t just jump out at you like a pop song. It takes time and when you go through what we had to go through with changing the name and stuff it going to take time…but we got time! We just play music and people can just decide ultimately if they want to come here and participate or if they want to be afraid and stay at home.

So is Vista Chino just a new name for Kyuss Lives! or has it got a new band feel to it?

B: Well it’s both, I mean John didn’t call me up in 2010 and ask me to start a new band, he called me up and said “Hey man, lets put Kyuss back together” and that’s what we did. Out of respect we chose to call it Kyuss Lives! So when that had to be changed we changed it to Vista Chino…with Mike Dean on bass and Bruno Fevery with John and I; our new musical unit still plays Kyuss classics but this is definitely a fresh thing. It’s all water pulled from the same well and it’s all part of the same venture but this is definitely a new chapter.

You mentioned Mike. How did Mike joining the band come about?

B: I’ve known Mike for years and growing up I was a fan, I was a big Corrosion of Conformity fan, Mike was always one of my heroes as a bass player. Let’s be honest, the last couple of years, bass players have been driving me crazy. So Nick came in and tracked the record, did a great job and it was great to have him back and everything looked super-positive and then erm…Nick got into some personal trouble again. He wasn’t able to go to Australia which was a very important tour for us, it was the last Kyuss Lives! tour. I thought well, what should I do, so thanks to my lovely wife here who suggested that I shoot for the moon, I did, I called up Mike Dean and…

Zaina : He used to draw pictures of Mike Dean when he was in Junior High School, he was all over the school notebooks, we found them when we were moving.

Wow, have you shown him?

B: No, ha ha.

Zaina (whispers) we probably shouldn’t discuss that!

B: So…Mike, it was err…well he was a big fan and he was into it and it worked out so well that we feel like we just kind of arrived at where it’s a working unit. So if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, so we haven’t messed with it since, it’s pretty awesome.

Mike’s got some COC dates coming up, are you going to just work around each other?

B: It was never our intention to have him leave Corrosion of Conformity, they’re a great band and we want that band to exist, so it was just a question of logistics and time management and schedules. The gods are smiling on us, because we haven’t had any conflicts yet. I’m sure they will arise and we’ll have to decide what we’re going to do. As of right now we’re all committed to the end of this year and then there’s talk of us going to Australia next year around January, so we’ll see what happens.

So that’s as far as you are thinking, 2014 remains pretty unbooked?

B: We’ve got ideas but we’re going to have to sit down and talk ‘em through.

You’ve retained a Kyuss feeling on the new album. Were you tempted to do something completely different?

B: The challenge of putting Kyuss back together and then ultimately wanting to do new music, which happened simultaneously…the desire and the commitment to make new music wasn’t something that cropped up a year down the line, it was the first week of rehearsal. That was part of the challenge as musicians, it was a big challenge. I’ve done a lot of music for a lot of reasons over the years and it was a big decision to get Kyuss back together because it was a vision that wasn’t fully recognised, there’s still a lot of work to be done and let’s expand on it and simultaneously give the new fans a glimpse of what it is (and what it was) and so it was a lot of moving parts all in the right direction…

When we started Kyuss we didn’t have fans and we weren’t motivated by entertaining people. We were motivated by just making music that we wanted to hear and that’s still the motivating factor for us, we want to make music that we want to hear/that we want to create. How people respond to it? That’s the cherry on top, you know. It wasn’t a question of reinventing a wheel but starting a new direction? Trust me brother, I could have done. I play a lot of music. I can play jazz, I can play funk, reggae, whatever. Kyuss is a rock band so we’re here to make rock music but tap into all different influences, but just make rock music.

You mention your own musical tastes, everyone else in the band has their other projects, is that something you’ll be hoping to do again soon?

B: That’s the crossroads we are at right now; Vista Chino is at a place right now where we feel like we’ve arrived at a certain place where we have to make decisions. John has his projects, Mike too, we all do. Bruno is very busy in Belgium and I’ve got my solo work and a lot of material that’s sitting on the shelf and a whole lot that needs to be created. So we’ll just have to see what happens, I’m very content right now.

Zaina: You have things that are ready to be released!

B: Of course I have things on the shelf but you got to wait and see. If we all go our separate ways for a bit that’s fine, if Vista Chino moves on some more that’s fine by me too.


VC MT (7)